Poems

Alive Like Ghosts

Here long sat beside the cold hearth,
A gnarled wanderer, still as stone.
The sun gone pale, cast dim and hard.
Memory hangs, swirls--glinting motes.

Forgotten by dreams, breathe and breathe.
Night conjures its keen beasts of prey,
Sliding like moonlight through trees,
Toward where the wanderer stays.

Fear, but the merest remembrance
In a heart empty of purpose,
Where bright songs no more dare to dance;
Dead as the hearth, a gray furnace.

Then, as tooth breaks upon the bone,
Marrow flakes away from embers.
A howl becomes the bellows, stoke,
Smoke, flame--now the lung remembers.

Blood rips through the wanderer's heart,
Sure fingers find a wolfish throat,
Eyes lock, an end ignites the start.
New fire incinerates the ghost.

One Score and Ten and Six

One score and ten and six
My crimes were lies before they left my lips
My eyes were mine but never looked like this
Mirror’s blistering kiss
 
The shadow reflected
A prismatic prison, dread refraction
Hope bent like light into an abstraction
Of escape perfected
 
To dig and dream and dig
With the fire of a homesick lunatic
An endless underworld, like Sisyphus
One score and ten and six
 
Now for the first time
Truth echoes from lies
Now for the first time
I know I see light
 
One score and ten and six
I brace the walls and dig.
 

One Score and Ten and Five

I built my boat and quit beloved shores, though there my heart stayed staid, forever moored, o’er the moonless sea’s vast aperture, black center of the world’s eye, mine, pupil pitched, heaved, my timbers hewn anew by monsters of the lightless deep, a rogue wave bore me sputtering, a foreign port, blazing the harsh promise of promise, trading home for hope, air for smoke, friends for liars and a mountain of fire, capped in gold, bleeding rich rivers that devour pretenders, while I seek to measure my might, I stride now into the burning bright, undeterred, unburned, I begin my climb, one score and ten and five.

One Score and Ten and Four

I dreamt a light
Bright like a knife
Feral as a first smile
And knowing like the last.

One score and ten and four
Transfixed by my own lure
A fantasy
Seen without sight

Now I shall build
Till the far fields
Where a skilled will might grow
And war-horns lock and blast

One score and ten and four
I am called to the fore
To fight and die
But never yield.

One Score and Ten and Three

One score and ten and three years unfurl themselves to me, sails swelled by starstuff and eternity, the unseen currents my guiding breeze, my windward destiny; known by gods who read whole the book still furiously writ by mortal me.

One score and ten and three Muses whisper their secret selves unto me, beautiful terrible blessings I remain unafraid to arrange, to repeat, staring wide eyed into the fire or into the night, where I look with love like I created all things.

One score and ten and three dreams I dreamt while unasleep, between the worlds, where I find my strength, forged anew by the dying light of the setting sun and the hammering of my heart; I rejoin the fight, one score and ten and three.

One Score and Twelve

One score and twelve since the gods plucked me from my shelf
Poseidon mocks the waves that break upon my boat
Charon covets the coin yet buried in my throat

Thought and Memory wing words of my deeds
To the Father of War and Poetry
Morpheus kindly cloaks me in his dreams
Loki howls and drinks my blood while I sleep

Christ inspires loving noble sacrifice
Hermod spurs Sleipnir into endless night
Diana draws her bow under moonlight
Brynhild sleeps beyond the curtain of fire

Aphrodite oft casts her shadow on the veil
As my pantheon is and is not but a tale
One score and twelve and these gods save me from myself.

One Score and Ten and One

One score and ten and one, burning, a yet set sun
Broke its shadow o'er the peak behind me,
Casting dark to my eyes like a star only lies.
What unhappy surprise, earth turned shaded sea
To grope upon, haunted by my greatest deed-
Sacrifice unseen.

That fell mountain I climbed, in pursuit of a sign,
As though 'twere Olympus I glimpsed in a dream.
But when I ascended, my purpose there ended
While the gods pretended to overlook me,
Mistake me for some rake of humanity!
I could scarce but breathe.

Aghast, then I stumbled, nearly headlong crumbled,
Down the stark far face of that desolate peak.
Returning unbroken with my hollow token
Of vows I had spoken so eloquently.
'Have I cindered myself or an effigy?'
Asked a memory.

To myself I replied, ''Tis merely Youth here died
And Wisdom (though kin) will but mourn him briefly.'
Striding where I would run toward battles yet won,
One score and ten and one, still on, still burning
The lightless fire, for man oft needs dark to see
True divinity.

One Score and Ten

My sleep unspooled from ragged eyes
The spider stitches waking night
A spectral web of silent fire
I twist alive but firm I died.

An unsure shade beset by gods
They flicker the verge of vision
I beg of Death, his portent lost
One score and ten, if not now– when?

The sleepless wolf at my arm's length
He slavers at my mortal stink
But is it life or death I feign
When I haunt this fleshly frame?

I am sure-made, base but divine
Our hearts beat or quit unbidden
The hero trembles not at Time
One score and ten, fates yet written.

The sleep-sick fool I here unbind
And stifle my own fearful lies
With simple wit and agile mind:
Until I die I am alive.

The Veil

A voice stretched out to me in the darkness. Sound, like light.
Every word a fearful god, defining, destroying itself on my tongue.
Each hole it punched through me filled now with hope.
And all I taste is blood.
Of gravity, the lone heart beat of eternity, bright and silent after the deafening.
A figure from fire grasps at a flower in limitless winter.
Forgotten child. Orphaned in infancy of death, the unerring stroke.
Beautiful invisible sister, beg me believe, not in her but for her.
She wanders the halls of me like misplaced destiny.
I fall fast forgetting awake. A dream, a familiar taste.
Metal and purpose and mystery.

River of Fire

We two echoes put to flesh
Lovers afore life and death
Astride a river of fire
Alight with raving desires

I am gorgonian stone
On this bitter bank alone
Enspirited by your gaze
You unmake night into day

Until our eyes come apart
Like the dark between the stars
The river flares blinding bright
Inferno sunders our sides

I am ever silhouette
Promised a shadow in debt
For the love we dare not spend
Two hearts too fiery to rend.

One Score and Nine

One score and nine, the unseen sign.

I lie prostrate before the god of forgotten roads and penetrate the invincible night with my dying light to burn through firmament yet undreamt and know its ends both dark and bright.

One score and nine, a love denied.

I lie prostrate with the goddess of forbidden roads and hew a home from seeds of stone sown in immortal soil and vow them tended until my mountains are grown and royal and mine to climb.

One score and nine, cold fire alight.

I stand upright before the god of foretold roads and weather the stillborn storms of doubt to face down my fate in what feral form it takes for my own is the rabid will of wolves and ice.

One score and nine, one more is mine.

Terra Damnata

I sleep the violent sleep of murdered men,
Each storm in this my head for a crow's nest,

I see the far bank of eternal shores,
Please, if we be brothers, fetch me my sword,

I might fight then as the phantom I am,
These bloodless hands knowing purpose again,

I need believe in false life come before,
So, if we be lovers, breathe not a word.

Ghost Piano

In a bustling, backwoods, backwards town, in an inn, stands a piano untamed by musicians and magicians, with its vulpine wires darting their discordant chords, daring each hammer, a hound, to wring a defiant melody from its strings, only eclipsed on the fullest moons by an unperceived player at the keys, an imagined maiden, her slender fingers a ballet, a silencing song among outlaws, bewitched by whiskey and the celestial sound of our world burning down, each note a frozen fire, a crisp reverberating pyre, like old hope trapped in dead men, memory, unknowing, centuries overdue, hewn from starless nights and wrapped in the will to fight, she weaves her dirge where haunted hustlers drown in drink, rapt by a brush with transcendent reverie, unjust even in majesty, for I alone hear her sing.

Maelstrom

In the instant infinity
Between my dreams
As sleep unbreathes
Its night-stitched seams
Into violent awakening

I see a bird with burning wings

Beating my heart murderously
The while it drinks
My stillborn screams
Most savagely
Feathered by fire unrelenting

I see a bird with burning wings

Before my eye's vitality
Escapes that beak
The vision shrieks
Its haunted screech
Through our fading eternity

I see a bird with burning wings

And when it sings
The whole world dies.

Mary Dear

I long to curse this shadowed day,
That sets your sea blue eyes ablaze,
Even though poets do proclaim,
No love be lost, but love delayed,

For when your vital smile returns,
The same wayfaring soul shall burn,
Its heart astride your heart, brave, firm,
Resuming its rhythm, march, term,

Weather you this storming course clear,
Keep us, your loyal deckhands, near,
Your sails shall swell anew with cheer,
Our love be your love, Mary Dear.

One Score and Eight

I survived my,
Baptism by,
Gunfire,
My favorite nightmare.
I pulled down my dreams,
The fiends,
Pinned back their wings,
Began to eat.

I drink the blood,
Taste dying love,
My tongue,
Afire with passions.
I defy the Fates,
Embrace,
Strike out today,
One score and eight.

Until Tomorrow's Dead

It'll be tomorrow's noon
The day I beg you to
Just tell me there's a God
And hold me 'til I'm gone

And you, you'll never make it back up to the top
So smash your eyes shut and swim, swim for the bottom

'Cause yesterday's a myth
Calendars can't exist
We're Princes of Denmark
And the interim's ours

I've got bullets for brains, dead heroes in my head
I'll shed the ghost of Time, until tomorrow's dead

I'll make myself moments, until tomorrow's dead
Until tomorrow's dead, until tomorrow's dead.

Defeat

Landscape to succeed
A poisonous dream
No light on our sea
Memories, debris

The fire on my heart
The bright burning dark
The cold kiss of night
The bloody storm tide

Hammer, temper, break
Blasting, forging, hate
Creeping, clutching, doubt
Struggle, strangle, out

All my brothers bleed
All my lovers leave
All a part of me
All apart from me

All lay down the fight
I stand up and die.

Married to the Sea

The captain says to me, says he:
"Oi, Navigator, ship ashore!"
"Aye," says I, shortly, "so I see."
"Join you not your mates in uproar?"
"I've no need these timbers don't cede."
Here clapped I the mast familiar.
"Bollocks! A sailor 'as his needs.
Think beer an' betties an' billiards!"

"Cap'n, I take brine o'er ale,
For its hue and spirit and foam.
As for sport, I hunt me the whale
From atop his unfathomed home."
"A lady then, to light your hearth?"
"Not were she to pay me, double!
The whore, she parts her legs for warmth,
And takes my coin for my trouble.

"Speak not next, my skipper, of love.
Ne'er did a false star burn so bright!
Your war-like angels from above,
Who oft leave the wounded to die.
Knew a lad, made his lass complete,
Swore an oath he'd never quit her.
Now her lonesome heart bleeds like meat,
Under the butcher's red cleaver."

To this my captain soon replied,
"I lost words an' art to find 'em.
I'd breathe life to what in you died,
But I'd sooner drown Poseidon."
I drank me an eyeful of port,
"Cap'n," says I, "stow your pity!
Hell, I stay more gladly aboard.
Me, I be married to the sea."

The Revolutionist

I've enjoyed my slow death here with you,
But by noon it's my neck for the noose,
Its invitation a cold demand.

But were the sun my man to command,
I'd forever stay his fiery hand,
And steal a day from our butchered muse.

I'd raise us an island from the sea,
There I'd trick you into loving me,
And finally I'd believe in God.

But we lived like kings and died like dogs,
The streets rang red with the rifle's song,
And our day defied eternity.

Here I hear the warden's curtain call,
A musket blast echoes down the hall,
Friendly hands seek the key to my cell.

And should this reckless escape end well,
My dead men might find some peace in hell,
Dead for the day dogs don't die at all.